Uncle Bill's

by dhayes on September 25, 2012

New owner keeps old tradition alive

Carroll's Pumpkin Farm has new owner with new name but same look

By DANN HAYES
dhayes1@dmreg.com

For Joy and Danny Carroll, owning and operating the Carroll Pumpkin Farm has been a joy of a life time.

Now, they said, it's time to move on. But they're leaving the farm in very good hands with an old friend.

Bill Owen, left, is the new owner of Carroll's Pumpkin Farm, now called Uncle Bill's Farm. Heidi Hogan, right, is the director of the farm. Owen, from Maxwell, and Hogan, born in Ames, can boast a bumper crop of pumpkins for 2012 as can be seen in the picture with the Grinnell farm in the background.

Uncle Bill, also known as Bill Owen, is the new owner and has changed the name to Uncle Bill's Farm.

“When we began the farm, we had a certain image and feel we wanted,” Danny Carroll said. “We never had any haunted houses – it wasn't us. We wanted it to be a fall harvest celebration where children can come and have a wonderful time.

They wanted the farm to be a place where parents didn't have to worry about their children, he said.

“And Bill is carrying that image over,” he said. “We couldn't be any happier then by passing the farm onto Bill.”

Basically a farm boy – Owen is from Maxwell – he has farmed most of his life. Owen has also been around animals quite a bit – his father was a veterinarian.

Maze entrance at Uncle Bill's Farm

And he loves interacting with people, especially children.

“That's how the place was sold to me about two years ago,” he said.

Owen worked at the Carroll Farm for some time prior to buying it.

“I had just finished giving some children a tractor ride and all the kids said thank you except one little girl. She was so excited that she couldn't say anything,” he said. “She finally came up and gave me a big hug around my knees.”

Memories like that one are why Owen is looking forward to the upcoming season and beyond.

“I get to be a grandpa for 1,000 kids,” he said. “I get to spoil them and then send them home.”

He also has one heck of a pumpkin crop ready to go.

“It is an absolutely amazing crop this year,” Owen said. “The drought didn't affect the pumpkins at all.”

According to Danny Carroll, pumpkins do much better in dry weather then wet.

Bill Owen, far right, new owner of what is now called Uncle Bill's Farm, and Heidi Hogan, director, hoist pumpkins from the 2012 bumper crop with Danny Carroll, far left, and Joy Carroll, former owners of Carroll's Pumpkin Farm.

“The year of 1993 when it was so wet, we lost every single pumpkin,” he said.

And then there's the corn maze, a crowd favorite. According to Owen, the Dillman Seed company seeds he uses are also drought resistant. The Dillman Seed Company sponsors the maze.

“I'm amazed at my maze,” he said.

Coming home

In a sense, Owen has come home and he's brought some family and friends.

Heidi Hogan, currently from LaPlace, La., but born and raised in Ames, will be the director.

“She is keeping me organized,” Owen said.

“We've known each other since we were 17 or 18-years-old,” Hogan said.

The relationship has blossomed into a team.

Elton, left, and Lily

You'll also see family members, including his sister Jennifer Selberg, who is designing and decorating outside displays around the farm.

She is a former Miss Iowa.

Another sister, Debra Berberich, Stone City, is an artist and is designing a new logo for the farm.

Visitors to Uncle Bill's Farm will also meet Elton and Lily

• Elton is a mule
• Lily is a white donkey

“Elton is a real sweet heart,” Owen said. “And Lily is a little shy.”

Visitors will be introduced to a few old friends of his, too – Johnny, Minnie, Mickey and Trax.

• Johnny is a 1951 John Deere tractor
• Minnie is a Minneapolis/Moline tractor
• Mickey is a 1953 McCormick Deering tractor
• Trax is a 1948 International

A new shelter house has been added giving parents some shade and a place to sit while their children enjoy the fun and games of the pumpkin farm.

“Bill is very talented and is interested – I should say talented – in refurbishing antique/vintage farm equipment,” Danny Carroll said.

Owen said they will be using the tractors to pull the hay rack/wagon rides.

Changes

After 21 years – they opened the farm in the fall of 1991 – the Carrolls decided to move on, but don't expect them to go too far – they've bought a new residence a few miles away.

“This is home,” Joy Carroll said. “This is where we live.”

They both are looking forward to spending time with their children and grand children.

And Joy's parents also live in Grinnell.

“There are no regrets,” Danny Carroll said. “We have some great memories and wonderful friends and have had great employees.

“It was good for our children as they grew up to learn a good, strong work ethic in a family business,” he said. “Now we encourage everyone to come out and make new memories at Uncle Bill's Farm!”

And they'll also be on hand to help out at the farm – after all, what would you expect from a family that has poured its heart and soul into the place.

This vintage truck greets guests to Uncle Bill's Farm in Grinnell. Bill Owen has bought what used to be Carroll's Pumpkin Farm.

“We are committed to Bill's success,” Joy Carroll said.

Joy said she first met Bill a number of years ago.

“I was working the concession stand and he gave me some pictures taken from the air,” she said.

Owen is also a pilot – he has a Cherokee and is rebuilding an old biplane.

But for now, he's going to have both feet on the ground.

“I'd like to thank the Carroll's for helping me through the first season,” Owen said.

Owen worked for the Carrolls at the farm last year to learn the ropes.

Future

While the farm isn't much different, other than it's name, Uncle Bill has added a few things to make a visit more enjoyable.

“He's already made some neat improvements,” Danny Carroll said.

Owen has added a shelter house in the center of the farm where parents can sit in the shade and watch their children, he said. Included are some picnic tables and a fire pit.

Owen also hopes to do a few other things, always keeping the customers in mind.

For example,

• He'd eventually like to add on to the barn and possibly add a bakery –his sister Jennifer is a baker.
• Owen is working with the people in the Amana's to bring Amana products to the farm
• If the shelter house is a success, he plans to add a second one.

He'd also like to expand the farm to be open for various things throughout the entire year.

“I'm looking to host a tractor show in the fall of 2013,” he said.

They could also open it up for weddings, birthday parties and company picnics.

“We are so pleased that the farm will continue in good hands,” Joy Carroll said.

So now old friends of the Carroll Pumpkin Farm will have to get used to a new name – Uncle Bill's Farm, but it shouldn't be that hard.

Uncle Bill is an old friend who has been around the area for some time. And his heart is into it.

`”At the end of the day, I'm tired,” Owen said. “But it's a good tired.”

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